LESOTHO Mounted Police Service (LMPS) Commissioner Khothatso Tšooana on Friday officially handed over his duties to his deputy, Masupha Masupha, in line with the Maseru Security Accord signed on 23 October 2014.
Under the Accord, Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli and Lieutenant General Maaparankoe Mahao of the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF), as well as Commissioner Tšooana, would go to a Southern African Development (SADC) or Commonwealth country on special leave for a specified period, to allow the restoration of cordial relations between the two feuding security agencies.
The Deputy Commander and Deputy Commissioner would take charge of the LDF and LMPS respectively, during this period.
Prime Minister Thomas Thabane fired Lt Gen Kamoli as LDF Commander on 29 August 2014 and replaced him with Lt Gen Mahao, but the former refused to accept the dismissal arguing it was illegal.
On the same day of the dismissal, Dr Thabane, Commissioner Tšooana and several other senior government officials fled Lesotho and sought refuge in South Africa after being alerted of an impending coup, allegedly led by Lt Gen Kamoli. The following day, some LDF members attacked three key Maseru police stations in what the army later said was a special operation to confiscate arms the LMPS intended to give to a group of civilians for use during a street protest scheduled for Maseru on 1 September 2014.
The march, which had been organised by the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) but was later cancelled, sought to put pressure on Dr Thabane to end parliament’s nine-month prorogation the premier had imposed on 10 June 2014 to avoid a no-confidence vote.
In an effort to end Lesotho’s security and political crisis following the prorogation and bitter fighting between coalition government leaders Dr Thabane, Mothetjoa Metsing and Thesele ‘Maseribane of the All Basotho Convention (ABC), LCD and Basotho National Party (BNP) respectively, SADC on 17 September 2014 appointed South Africa’s Deputy President, Cyril Ramaphosa to mediate in the impasse.
The mediation resulted in the signing of the Maseru Facilitation Declaration by all the country’s political leaders on 2 October 2014, under which parliament was to reopen on 17 October and dissolved two months later, and early elections held in February 2015, instead of the initial 2017.
Mr Ramaphosa also brokered the Maseru Security Accord, defusing what was increasingly becoming a ticking time-bomb.
Addressing journalists at Police Headquarters on Friday, Commissioner Tšooana said of his leave: “As you all know, my leave of absence begins on or before the expiry of 21 days from the signing of the Maseru Security Accord on 23 October 2014, so I had no reason to wait until those days are over.
“I am officially announcing Ntate Masupha as the Acting Commissioner of Police following his appointment letter issued on 29 October 2014.”
Commissioner Tšooana noted he did not know yet where he would spend his leave, adding: “Signing the Maseru Security Accord was not an easy decision, but it had to be done for the sake of Lesotho’s peace and stability.
“The LMPS’mandate is to be loyal to the laws that rule this country. That is why I want to be an example to all police officers that even if one is not in the wrong, there are times when you need to compromise to end a crisis.
“Some people might take compromise as being weak and stupid but the fact of the matter remains that a great leader takes orders and advice from his superiors. It is not through physical fights that Lesotho will regain its peace and stability, but patience and modesty.”
According to Commissioner Tšooana, going on leave was an indication of sacrifice not only for the police but also the nation’s interests and welfare.
“We have all leant about sacrifice from the Holy Bible where Jesus Christ had to die to deliver us from our sins. It is my sincere belief that going on this leave will definitely lead Lesotho to stability and peace.”
On his part, Acting Police Commissioner Masupha said disciplined officers always take orders from their superiors, hence his acceptance to be head of the LMPS in Commissioner Tšooana’s absence.
“Our country is in a political and security crisis and I hope I have not invited abuse by taking orders from my superiors,” he said.
The government, he further noted, had availed resources to the LMPS to ensure the police are adequately equipped to fight crime, which he said was what really mattered to the service.
“From 100 vehicles, we now have 202 cars, uniform is now available and the issues of salaries and rank-structure have been addressed, and we commend the government for this,” he said.
Acting Police Commissioner Masupha further said he hoped the Maseru Security Accord signalled a new era for Lesotho’s security agencies.
“It is our sincere hope that following the signing of the Maseru Security Accord, our security agencies will stop attacking each other and rather sit down and resolve their differences,” Acting Commissioner Masupha said.
Meanwhile, Acting Commissioner Masupha said he had not been told how long he would remain in his new role.